01 December 2006

The Ethical Journalist

Journalists should not be expected to choose between having a conscience and having a job, the author of a new ethics book told a launch party this week at London’s Frontline Club.

However, there is no point in harking back to a “golden age” of ethical journalism, because golden ages do not exist, argued Tony Harcup, author of The Ethical Journalist.

The Ethical Journalist book cover

Tony, a senior lecturer at the Department of Journalism Studies at the University of Sheffield, said there was much to celebrate about journalism, but that journalists had a social responsibility to think about the implications of what they do.

“Too much discussion of journalism and ethics becomes a po-faced lament about how bad things are, yet that is not the whole story,” said Tony.

“There is also journalism out there that we can and should celebrate. Journalism that informs and questions; journalism that treats people as citizens rather than merely as consumers; and journalism that has room for a quirkiness of viewpoint.

“Ethical journalism doesn’t mean being dull and holier than thou, but it does mean that we think about what we are doing, while we are doing it, and that we discuss it. And every now and then we should be prepared to say ‘boo’ to a goose, or ‘no’ to a Desmond or a Murdoch.”

Tony Harcup was speaking at the launch of several new journalism titles published by Sage, including The Ethical Journalist.
In the book he argues that everything journalists do has ethical implications, and he explores the range of issues likely to confront those studying journalism or training to become journalists. The book discusses journalists’ personal anecdotes alongside relevant critical studies by academics. Original interviews include Andrew Gilligan on his meeting with weapons expert Dr David Kelly, and Ryan Parry on being an undercover reporter in Buckingham Palace.

Informed by new research and the author’s own experience within both mainstream and alternative journalism, The Ethical Journalist addresses topics such as trust, the public interest, deception, news values, source relationships, crime reporting, regulation and the Hutton inquiry.

The Ethical Journalist by Tony Harcup (2007) published by Sage: £19.99.